Grant helps University of Central Arkansas graduate program fill need for more school psychologists

CONWAY, Ark. – A $2.2 million grant at the University of Central Arkansas is aiming to help fill an urgent need for more school psychologists throughout the nation.

This grant helps provide fellowships to students who come into their program. Students and professors there said partnerships with a local school district and another college help make this impact.

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Through the program, students like Nayeli Moreno and Rylee Wofford work with Conway public schools, allowing them to better understand the needs for students of all ages.

“Whenever a student may have some mental health needs that don’t go addressed right away it does spill into a lot of other aspects of their lives,” Moreno said.

Wofford said the work they’re doing is helping impact lives.

“They’re coming in from kindergarten these are the kids that we call Covid babies, they grew up in their homes, they don’t have that social interaction, so we’re laying that groundwork for them,” Wofford said.

Dr. Joan Simon and Dr. Heather Martens said the grant helps positively influence more students and professionals than before.

“Our first-year students are working with school counselors and learning more about the role of a school counselor, and how school counselors and school psychologists interact with one another,” Simon said.

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The grant also partners with Philander Smith University. Martens said they hope to recruit students to diversify their field.

“And we would like to train more school psychologists, who look like the children that they serve,” Martens said. “We have a lot of children in Conway who are Spanish speaking, we have a lot of children in Conway who are black, or who are brown, and it’s really important there are school psychologists who look like them.”

Through a program called Feel Your Best Self, Moreno said they’re using and learning the skills they need to continue impacting generations to come.

“It kind of like helps the students identify, what is a heavy feeling, what is a light feeling, and they know when they’re experiment heavier feelings, yeah I don’t feel myself,” Moreno said.

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For those interested in applying for the program, the deadline is March 1.

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